After hanami, the weather turned more seasonal (cooler) but it was still nice enough to grill outside. One weekend, we bought a whole black sea bass and decided to just simply grill it on the charcoal fire. At the market, there were few fresh whole fish available, Arctic char and black sea bass looked good to me and I chose black sea bass since we eat salmon frequently and char is somewhat similar to salmon. This black sea bass was a good sized fish.
What is the Japanese equivalent of black sea bass? I am not sure but I could not find similar Japanese fish. Thus, the Japanese phonetic expression of “black sea bass” ブラックシーバス appears appropriate. It is a white meat fish but has nice firm sweet meat. It can be grilled, fried, simmered and is available as a sashimi item in sushibars. I did not think, however, that this was fresh enough for that.
Black sea bass
: This was about 13 inches long. I had it gutted, scaled and the dorsal fin removed (very spiky) by the fish monger. I decided to simply salt it and grill it without further embellishment. I made shallow cross cuts on both sides of the fish to prevent the skin from rupturing during grilling. I salted inside and out a few hours before grilling, covered and put it in the refrigerator. Just before grilling, I patted the skin dry with a paper towel and smeared light olive oil on the skin (mostly to prevent the skin from sticking to the grill).
Vegetables: I grilled fresh shiitake mushrooms and aspragus at the same time. For the shiitake mushrooms, I removed the stem. For the asparagus, I removed the woody root ends. I coated them with olive oil and seasoned both with salt and pepper.
: I used slightly less lump charcoal than I usually use–(about 80% of what I would use to roast a whole chicken). I ignited the charcoal using a chimney charcoal starter
. After the charcoal was ready, I just dumped in on the bottom grate of the Weber grill in an oval-shaped mound corresponding with the shape of the fish with the center portion having few layers and the periphery less charcoal so that the fish get hottest fire and the vegetables less so. I cleaned and sprayed the grill grate with a non-flammable non-stick oil spray
I placed the fish on the grill, put on the lid but left both bottom and top air vents fully open. I let it cook for 5 minutes and then placed the mushrooms and asparagus on either side of the fish. After another 5 minutes, I turned over the shiitake mushrooms and moved them further away from the hot charcoal to prevent charring (my wife does not like “blackened” mushrooms i.e. mushrooms with burned sections). I also turned the asparagus but left them in the rather hot area of the grill next to the fish. I flipped over the fish trying not to damage the skin. I cooked another 5 minutes with the lid on. I thought the fish was just done but my wife who peeked into the flesh said it was still transparent near the bone. I had to put the fish back for another 5 minutes to complete the cooking.
My wife deboned the fish and separated the meat as you see above. We shared this plate. We had this with a bowl of white rice. I also served “Ikura” salmon roe, “Tobiko” flying fish roe, and seasoned nori or “Ajitsuke nori“. This was very enjoyable and we finished up the entire fish. The meat was a bit overcooked but still quite nice. The shiitake mushroom was succulent and almost tasted like meat with a nice smoky flavor (and I did not burn them this time).